food equity webinar with dr. qadira huff

At Nutiva, we believe that in order for our food system to be truly sustainable, it must also be equitable. As a founding member of the J.E.D.I. Collaborative with deep commitments to the principles of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, Nutiva partnered with Dr. Qadira Ali Huff to shine light on the topic of food equity and racial justice in the food system. While the food equity webinar itself was a limited access opportunity, we’re excited to share some key highlights and takeaways with you here.

To start by introducing our partner, , MD, MPH, FAAP, DipABLM is a board-certified pediatrician in Washington, DC and founder of Sprouting Wellness, a virtual lifestyle medicine platform that supports families along the journey from information to implementation of healthier lifestyle habits. Dr. Huff earned her medical doctorate degree from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and her Masters in Public Health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health with a focus on food systems, equity, and health disparities.

When we first connected with Dr. Huff, we were moved by her reflections on the intersections of food, health and racial (in)justice amidst the peak of 2020’s Black Lives Matter demonstrations. Having been raised by “health-conscious parents [who] eschewed the ‘standard American diet’ through their revolutionary move to raise their three Black children plant-based,” Dr. Huff has seen firsthand and studied the ways that access to healthy food—or lack thereof—informs health outcomes—and disparities—for communities of color.

Dr. Huff’s message that “plant-based eating is a revolutionary act” because “food is power” resonated deeply with Nutiva’s mission to revolutionize the way the world eats. To amplify this message to our customers, industry partners, and our own team at Nutiva, we partnered with Dr. Huff to develop a webinar to unpack the idea of food equity.

And so, A Tale of Two Plates was born! In our two-part webinar series, Dr. Huff guided our audience on a learning journey to grow our understanding of:

-The political power of food,
-Racial disparities in food access and health outcomes,
-And the initiatives cultivating a more just and equitable food system.

To better understand what food equity means in the first place, we can look to the definition used by Prince George’s County Food Equity Council which Dr. Huff is a member of. They define food equity as the “cultivation of justice and economic opportunity from farm to fork” with the goal of building a food system where all people have access to healthy, affordable, and sustainable food. This vision, in turn, lies at the heart of the movement pushing back against structural racism in the food system.

As Dr. Huff herself explained it, food equity “acknowledges the interconnectedness of social determinants of health and that food justice demands racial, economic, political, and environmental justice as each is built on the same foundation.”

In part one of our webinar, “Unearthing,” we peeled back the layers of structural racism within the food system and moved towards a deeper understanding of the complex factors that perpetuate disparities in health, food production, and food access. The only way we can grow a thriving future is by first taking an honest look at history, and that involves acknowledging that the United States’ agricultural system was built through the exploitation of people of color—particularly Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities.

Our country’s horrific legacy of institutionalized racism, from the theft of Indigenous land to the enslavement and forced labor of African peoples, contextualizes today’s food landscape. Given these historical inequities, Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities today are significantly more likely to face food insecurity and suffer from diet-related diseases than White communities. These realities underscore the necessity of the movement for food justice. Fortunately, this movement is blossoming across the country and we all have a part to play in it.

In part two of our webinar series, “Cultivating,” we explored diverse approaches to furthering food equity at the community level and beyond. Organizations across the country are on the frontlines of building a more just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive food system. While each plays a unique role in guiding us towards the future of food we know is possible, they often align across key principles as outlined by Dr. Huff:

-Healthy food available to all
-Safe jobs with livable wages
-Equitable economic development
-Sustainable production practices
-Improved health outcomesEnvironmental stewardship

Some notable examples of organizations actively promoting food justice include Nutiva partners Common Vision and Planting Justice.

-Common Vision was our nonprofit partner instrumental to our school orchard project which brought fruit trees to every public elementary, middle and high school in our local city of Richmond, California.
-Guided by the principles of food sovereignty, economic justice and community healing, Planting Justice has built over 550 edible permaculture gardens across the Bay Area, worked with five high-schools to develop food justice curricula and created over 40 green jobs in the food justice movement for people transitioning from prison.

If there’s one thing we’d offer as a takeaway from our webinar series, that would be Dr. Huff’s point that “We all win when everyone has a chance to have opportunity, to contribute,…to benefit society at large.” This recognition allows allyship to grow beyond altruistic antiracism to a more sustainable motivation rooted in the interconnectedness of living systems—including all people and the planet.

Together with Dr. Huff, we have curated a list of resources to help you learn more about the intersection between food and race, along with a list of organizations that are on the frontlines of food justice leadership. We hope that these resources empower and inspire you to advocate for racial justice and food equity in your community.

-You Belong to the Land: A Conversation with Karen Washington and Leah Penniman (Article)
-Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land Author: Leah Penniman (Book)
-Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement Author: Dr. Monica White, PhD (Book)
-Black Food Geographies: Race, Self-Reliance, and Food Access in Washington D.C. Author: Ashante M. Reese (Book)
-10 Things Everyone Should Know about Racism in the US Food System; Food Solutions New England (Article)

-The Impact of Racism on Health and Well-Being of the Nation—Naming and addressing racism: A Primer by Dr. Camara P. Jones and Dr. Shiriki Kumanyika
-Food + Justice = Democracy: LaDonna Redmond at TEDxManhattan
-The underlying racism of America’s food system: Regina Bernard-Carreno at TEDxManhattan

-New England Food Solutions: 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge
-Support the Justice for Black Farmers Act 
-The People’s School of DC: Introduction to Racism + White Privilege Course (Free) 

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